School vouchers use tax dollars to teach religious doctrine

Most North Carolina vouchers are going to Christian, Islamic or other religious-affiliated schools.
Most North Carolina vouchers are going to Christian, Islamic or other religious-affiliated schools. Observer file photo

In response to “Public money for private school scholarships is working, and will soon expand dramatically” (July 26 For the Record):

The declaration by Brian Jodice of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina that the NC voucher program has “large, positive impacts” is outrageous and not supported by valid data.

Jodice draws on a study report by North Carolina State University researchers Anna Egalite, D.T. Stallings, and Stephen Porter. Participation in the study was voluntary. Only 89 voucher students (1.6 percent of all voucher students) took part. Over half of the voucher schools that participated were Catholic schools, while only 10 percent of all schools receiving North Carolina vouchers are Catholic.

The authors themselves say: “The results reported here are not reflective of the average test score impact on a typical voucher student attending a North Carolina private school by way of the Opportunity Scholarship program.”

Indeed, private schools receiving vouchers are not required to monitor student progress using comparable measures to North Carolina’s public schools. According to a report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke Law School, “Accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers are among the weakest in the country. The schools need not be accredited, adhere to state curricular or graduation standards, employ licensed teachers, or administer state End-of-Grade tests.”

In particular, many voucher schools teach courses that do not prepare students for college-level science. According to a League of Women Voters study, more than 75 percent of students receiving vouchers use curriculum teaching a literal biblical wordview. This view includes teaching articles of faith, as stated on the schools’ websites, that include:

“We believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days, and that God created all life. We reject the man-made theory of evolution occurring over millions of years and believe that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.”

The Duke study shows that a whopping 93 percent of voucher students receive Christian, Islamic, or other religious educations at taxpayer expense.

Jodice is correct in stating that the voucher program will expand dramatically. The NC Legislature, while starving public schools of funding, has budgeted an annual increase of $10 million to the voucher fund. The current annual appropriation is $60 million. By state statute, that annual appropriation will grow to $145 million in 2027.

Using our tax dollars to teach religious doctrine instead of science does not constitute a sound basic education for North Carolina students.

Sawyer represents District 4 on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, but is speaking here only for herself.